Response to 2.1 (Charlene Spretnak)


Taney asks, “If the human organism is now understood to be part of a complex web of biological, ecological, and cosmological relations, can aesthetic form be reimagined as a means by which we engage with that larger complexity?”


This is a huge and fertile question. So much has been discovered in recent years about the dynamic interrelatedness by which humans and the entire physical world are actually structured and actually function that, if a nature-oriented posthumanist aesthetic ever did carry the day, I think just catching up on what we now know about how every entity and every being is creatively engaged at every nanosecond with vast fields of interrelatedness would be part of art education! For starters, artists might find useful Relational Reality (2011), a book in which I present and consider recent discoveries of dynamic interrelatedness in human physiology – how we are inherently affected by our connections with nature and with other people. Finally, the biomechanistic model of the body is being challenged and nudged aside after 300 years by the new findings. We cannot really grasp the implications of the new relational knowledge, though, unless we set ourselves on a learning curve because it is so different from what we learned in our modern schooling.


Since the act of perceiving art (or anything else) is now understood to be dynamic and relational and since a “subject” of a posthumanist art might well be contemplation of nature and cosmos (including us) as unimaginably dynamic and interrelated, what form-subject might by evoked by our new awareness of all the creative and lively complexity? This is a formidable aesthetic challenge that could never be exhausted.


Taney Roniger said...

Charlene, it excites me to think about art addressing as its subject matter the dynamic interrelatedness of nature and cosmos. I would say this perfectly describes the work we saw the other day of Christine's. It was interesting to hear her say that she has little interest in form, not just because that happens to be the focus of our symposium but also because it implies that matter alone is enough to evoke this dynamic interrelatedness. But of course her sculptures *do* manifest as perceptual forms; it's just that the forms they embody are not willfully shaped by her. This leads me to wonder if one of the reasons we respond so deeply to Christine's work is exactly the fact that it is shaped by natural forces. I'm now thinking of Noguchi and how in his later years he began to do less and less to his stones, instead letting nature do the sculpting for him. All of this leads me to a preliminary answer to your final question here, namely (if I understood you correctly)what kind of forms a posthumanist art might take. It seems to me that one of these would be the kind of form that results from a collaboration with nonhuman forces -- a kind whose antithesis would be the rigid grids, cubes, etc. of the Minimalist art of the last century. If the maxim for the latter was "What you see is what you see," what might be the one for this kind of form?

Wendy Beth Hyman said...

This is a small point, but I suspect this is really consonant with Christine's commitment to elementalism. DNA sequences, for example, contain sets of instructions that are encoded in their form (the order of nucleotides are not random), but are not *about* their form. Apologies for probably conveying this ineptly. But at any rate, the element FORMS, and the form is elegant as we perceive it (double helix), but incidental--a quality of the matter itself. I wonder if this is a fair comparison.

The other thought spurred by your post, Charlene, was indeed about whether certain arts--dance, music, maybe sculpture--naturally lned more towards this kind of collaborative process, at least for us westerners. When I put a brush on a canvas I cannot let go of the idea that "I" am "doing" something "to" the canvas. I do not feel something moving through me in the way that I think a musician/singer or dancer feels.

Which sparks a thought about the etymology of artistic "inspiration"--being breathed into. And "persona": a thing through which sound moves.